How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kodiak AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Kodiak residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Kodiak AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Kodiak AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Kodiak AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Kodiak AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Kodiak AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Kodiak AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Kodiak AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Kodiak AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Kodiak AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Kodiak Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Kodiak home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kodiak Alaska.